AN agglomeration of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come together to rebuke the government of Burma and insist on the immediate cessation of armed conflict and protection of civilians in Kachin and Northern Shan States.
In a press release from the International Rescue Committee, the 22 NGOs, including among them Oxfam, Kachin Baptist Convention and Save the Children, all expressed their concern over the “continually escalating armed conflict and severely deteriorating security situation for the civilian population” in the conflict-ridden northern states of the country.
“We are alarmed about incidents of civilians being killed, injured and displaced due to intensification of military operations and use of heavy artillery in close proximity to IDP (internally displaced person) camps and populated areas,” the press release reads.
The aid organisations highlighted the plight of civilians settled in Maga Yang, Zai Awng and Hkau Shau camps, 6,000 of whom have been displaced from their homes in Kachin state.
They also emphasised the situation of the civilian population in Mansi Township and the evolving situation in Kutkai, Kyaukme and Nam San Townships in Northern Shan State, where recent fighting has led to an additional 5,600 people being forced from their homes.
The lack of safe locations, threats to civilian safety, increased restrictions on people’s freedom of movement and the inability to access humanitarian aid are of particular concern to the local and international charities.
The collection used the statement to call on:
“the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) and all parties to the conflict to promote, respect and facilitate the protection of civilians and access of humanitarian assistance to all those in need.”
They also used the release to encourage the international community to fight for the rights of those persecuted in Burma, and to urge an increase in funding to meet the needs of the ever-growing displaced population.
They conclude their statement with clear and concise actions that they believe are essential in ensuring the safety of the civilians on the ground.
Apart from calling for the immediate cessation of armed conflict, they also request an end to all violations of human rights, for basic humanitarian needs to be met, for the removal of all impediments to humanitarian aid being supplied in the region, and for all parties involved in the conflict to constructively engage in a mediated peace dialogue.
For many years, allegations have been brought against the Burmese military for their misconduct in the Northern Shan and Kachin States. Civil society organisations have documented unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labour, and other abuses committed against civilians in the region.
Both Fortify Rights and Human Rights Watch have collected evidence of wrongdoing in the area, including the displacement of tens of thousands of people, the destruction of homes, and the systematic use of torture and other degrading punishment of more than 60 civilians by government forces during fighting from June 2011 to April 2014.
Despite these widespread allegations, Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma, was recently denied access by the government to Shan State, and was only allowed access to certain areas of Kachin State, during her 12-day monitoring mission to the country.
In a Facebook statement following the visit, Lee stated that “it is evident that the situation in Kachin and at the northern borders is deteriorating. Those in Kachin State tell me that the situation is now worse than at any point in the past few years.”